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Product Description:

Victor Mancini, a medical-school dropout, is an antihero for our deranged times. Needing to pay elder care for his mother, Victor has devised an ingenious scam: he pretends to choke on pieces of food while dining in upscale restaurants. He then allows himself to be “saved” by fellow patrons who, feeling responsible for Victor’s life, go on to send checks to support him. When he’s not pulling this stunt, Victor cruises sexual addiction recovery workshops for action, visits his addled mom, and spends his days working at a colonial theme park. His creator, Chuck Palahniuk, is the visionary we need and the satirist we deserve.

Victor Mancini is a ruthless con artist. Victor Mancini is a med-school dropout who's taken a job playing an Irish indentured servant in a colonial-era theme park in order to help care for his Alzheimer's-afflicted mother. Victor Mancini is a sex addict. Victor Mancini is a direct descendant of Jesus Christ. All of these statements about the protagonist of Choke are more or less true. Welcome, once again, to the world of Chuck Palahniuk.

"Art never comes from happiness." So says Mancini's mother only a few pages into the novel. Given her own dicey and melodramatic style of parenting, you would think that her son's life would be chock-full of nothing but art. Alas, that's not the case. In the fine tradition of Oedipus, Stephen Dedalus, and Anthony Soprano, Victor hasn't quite reconciled his issues with his mother. Instead, he's trawling sexual-addiction recovery meetings for dates and purposely choking in restaurants for a few moments of attention. Longing for a hug, in other words, he's settling for the Heimlich.

Thematically, this is pretty familiar Palahniuk territory. It would be a pity to disclose the surprises of the plot, but suffice it to say that what we have here is a little bit of Tom Robbins's Another Roadside Attraction, a little bit of Don DeLillo's The Day Room, and, well, a little bit of Fight Club. Just as with Fight Club and the other two novels under Palahniuk's belt, we get a smattering of gloriously unflinching sound bites, including this skeptical bit on prayer chains: "A spiritual pyramid scheme. As if you can gang up on God. Bully him around."

Whether this is the novel that will break Palahniuk into the mainstream is hard to say. For a fourth book, in fact, the ratio of iffy, "dude"-intensive dialogue to interesting and insightful passages is a little higher than we might wish. In the end, though, the author's nerve and daring pull the whole thing off--just barely. And what's next for Victor Mancini's creator? Leave the last word to him, declaring as he does in the final pages: "Maybe it's our job to invent something better.... What it's going to be, I don't know." --Bob Michaels

Customer Reviews:

Rating: Four-Star Rating for Choke
Date: 2008-07-07
Starts slow; ends fast.
This is the second Chuck Palahniuk book I have read having started with the frightening, "Haunted." I liked Choke, didn't love it. It was a fantastically quick read. I enjoyed the character of Victor Mancini, but the author does not present anything likeable about him. I would venture a guess that this is the authors style throughout his catalog. Choke is a biting social satire and will make the reader rethink views on addiction.

Rating: Four-Star Rating for Choke
Date: 2008-07-02
Bizarre isn't the right word, but it's the first word that comes to mind.
Bizarre isn't the right word, but it's the first word that comes to mind.

Victor Mancini is medical school dropout and a sex addict. He raises money to pay for his crazy mother's care in a nursing home by pretending to choke in restaurants. The people who "save" him feel like heroes and also feel responsible for him.

This book is for MATURE readers who are not easily offended. It is extremely sexually explicit--perverted, dark, and oddly fascinating.

Rating: Two-Star Rating for Choke
Date: 2008-06-25
Gratuitously Vile
Choke is a moderately cool and unconventional story with a number of clever elements that unfortunately get lost in a sea of depravity. Yeah, main character Victor Mancini is a sex addict, and so detailing his exploits is necessary to develop his character- I get it. But dedicating the vast majority of the book's pages to gratuitous carnal minutiae mires the book's positives in a swamp of bodily fluids. And the gross stuff isn't limited to just sex, either: Palahniuk projectile vomits the gory details of nose blowing, scatology, and ear candles on Choke's pages (not to mention the particulars of the story's namesake act).

As a result, Victor is the only character that fully forms; Palahniuk is a good enough writer to convince us of Vic's slowly-developing Christ complex, which Vic artfully tries to dodge through behaving according to the question, "What would Jesus not do?" The others merely remain a collection of bizarre and depraved habits, however: Everyone is on drugs at all times, especially while working at 18th Century replica Colonial Dunsboro. And Vic's fellow sex-addict workshop are living, breathing (and moaning) embodiments of clichéd sexual urban legends.

Choke also has too many flawed premises, each responsible for collapsing Palahnuik's house of cards: (i) that people who saved Vic from choking somehow felt indebted to him, instead of the other way around; (ii) that Vic had logged over 300 choking episodes in roughly the same area; and (iii) even if you accepted (i) and (ii), that the choking gig brought Vic a nearly $3K monthly income. [See others below the spoilers line.]

And despite some cool themes woven throughout the story, like the technique of tracing shadows, Palahniuk never fully earns the extra style points with Choke that he did with Fight Club. Both works share a fast paced and hip style, but here, the style seems too hip by half. Devices are overplayed and grow tiresome ("see also: wearying"; "see also: draining").

The movie was recently made with the talented Sam Rockwell. Let's hope the film emphasizes the book's more clever aspects- and good sexy bits- and sheds the excess to maintain an R rating.


... (iv) that Denny developed such a rock addiction that he filled Vic's home, and that he could build a castle from them; (v) that Vic cured many of the old women in Saint Anthony's by confessing to their sins; (vi) that his mom's sexual hypnosis worked and was profitable; (vii) Vic's and Denny's traipsing around lawns in rich communities to get drunk off plates of beer left out to trap slugs...

Rating: Three-Star Rating for Choke
Date: 2008-06-24
It Was Ok...
I agree with the other reviews-if you are disgusted by vivid and dirty sex, poop, snot, bodily fluids of all sorts, old people and monkeys, this book probably isn't for you. If you can deal, you will only be rewarded with a mediocre story at best. The whole novel feels like it is jammed with needless uncomfortable descriptions for the sake of making people uncomfortable. If creating a sense of unease helped move the story along, I would be fine with the device...but it didn't help an already weak story. Parts of the novel would have made great short stories, but as a whole it just wasn't strong enough to make me feel anything. And I'm sorry, but if I read "but it's the first thing that comes to mind" again, I thought I was going to start screaming. That was worse torture than the monkey and the chestnuts description.

Rating: Two-Star Rating for Choke
Date: 2008-06-21
Not worth finishing
It started out interesting so I kept on reading it. I noticed the book had no point or anything interesting, but I thought since every talks about how great Chuck Palahniuk's book are. Towards the end the was so bad and weird I just stopped reading it.

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